Death Row’s Oddest Inmates

Hannibal Lecter
Luckily, not all criminals are so cunning.
Movies and TV shows lead us to believe that all homicidal maniacs are like Hannibal Lecter; clever, refined, and with vocabularies that would put a college professor to shame. In reality, though, your average killer isn’t nearly as sharp as his murder weapon. No one knows for certain if these five death row inmates were insane or just not very bright, but one thing is certain: each man was definitely a few bullets short of a full clip.

#5. Robert Wayne Vickers
Although Robert Wayne Vickers—nicknamed “Banzai Bob” after the famous Japanese war cry—once burglarized 12 houses during a 13-day period, his worst crimes weren’t committed until after he landed in jail. Vickers killed his first cellmate because the man stole his Kool-Aid. After strangling the other prisoner and stabbing him with a sharpened toothbrush, Vickers carved a misspelled version of his nickname—“Bonzai”—into the man’s back. Vickers was given the death penalty for that crime, but even that didn’t stop his murder spree. When a fellow death row inmate insulted his niece, Vickers made a makeshift firebomb out of hair gel and threw it into the other man’s cell. While many death row inmates drag their appeals out for decades, Vickers did everything possible to speed up his execution date. “I’m a very impatient person. I never did like waiting,” Vickers explained, adding “I’ve got a date with the devil’s wife!”

That’s Bologna!
Paster’s defense: pure balogna!
#4. James Paster
Instead of being “All Shook Up,” multiple murderer and Elvis impersonator James Paster was as cool as they come. During one interrogation, police asked Paster how one of his female victims was dressed when he abducted her. Paster sneered and replied  “Man, she was just some girl that was going to die and you want me to remember what she was wearing?” While his other murders were apparently just for fun, Paster earned his death sentence for a contract killing that paid $1000. Paster allegedly wanted the money to buy parts for his guitar amplifier. Once he landed on death row, Paster did everything he could to get out. He earned one stay of execution by claiming that the bologna sandwiches he was served during his trial were so nutritionally lacking that he didn’t have the strength to properly defend himself. Paster later attempted to escape his death row cell by slathering himself with hair tonic then crawling through an air vent. Elvis left the building for good when Paster received his lethal injection.

#3. Daniel Colwell
Some death row inmates are loners and social outcasts, but double murderer Daniel Colwell claimed to have friends in high places. Colwell described himself as “God’s personal psychiatrist” and also said “Me and Death are best friends, and we love each other.” Convicted of gunning down an elderly couple in a Wal-Mart parking lot, Colwell warned the jurors at his trial not to make the silly mistake of sentencing him to life in prison. An impassioned Colwell proclaimed, “How do you know that I will not break out of prison and torture your loved ones, your children, your parents, even yourself? Jurors, why take the risk? Why take that foolish risk? Again, why take the risk? Daniel Colwell must die!” Colwell was found guilty, and when asked if he wanted to make a final statement before sentencing, the 315-pound killer stood up and sang the Styx song “Babe.” The judge then formally sentenced Colwell to death, making the criticism on American Idol seem tame by comparison.

#2. Monty Delk
After losing his own car in a poker game, Monty Delk shot another man to death and stole the man’s Chevy Camaro. Delk was given a death sentence and quickly earned a reputation as the biggest troublemaker on the Texas death row. He refused to use soap or remove his clothes when showering, repeatedly threatened jailhouse employees, and his cell had to be lined with steel plates because Delk was constantly chipping away at the concrete blocks. But while discipline was never Delk’s strong suit, he did possess a vivid imagination. Prior to his execution, Delk claimed at various times to be a submarine commander, a district judge, a licensed physician, and the President of Kenya. After he was strapped to the lethal injection table, Delk bellowed “I am the warden! Get your warden off this gurney and shut up! You are not in America. This is the island of Barbados. People will see you doing this!”

#1. Varnall Weeks

Weeks reborn as giant turtle?
A killer reborn?
Many people labeled convicted killer Varnall Weeks as insane, but the judge who presided over his trial called Weeks “highly intelligent, with signs of genius.” Weeks was definitely capable of thinking outside the box; on his first day in court, Weeks wore a makeshift headband made from a domino and a piece of string. The dots on the domino showed a double seven, and Weeks proclaimed that the domino represented him because there were seven days in a week. Weeks then commenced to ramble about Aztecs, albinos, Buddhism, and his fondness for rainy weather, among other topics. After being sentenced to death, Weeks never seemed upset regarding his impending execution. Instead, he described death as “an adventure” and looked forward to being reincarnated as a giant turtle who would then rule over mankind.

Ty Treadwell is the author of the humorous mystery The Devil Did Grin and co-author of Last Suppers: Famous Final Meals from Death Row.  For more death penalty trivia, read Ty’s blog at


  1. Clare 2e

    Lands, these are oddities- cold-blooded some and simply wild others. Even if you’re not deranged, once you’re on Death Row, I guess there’s less reason to censor your impulses. Yikes!!

  2. Chuk

    It will suck if that last guy is right and really comes back as a turtle and rules over mankind.

  3. Shannon Guzman

    I attended Monty Delk’s execution, after years of covering this sensational story – he was a HANDFUL!!

  4. Cary

    Robert Vickers is my uncle.

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